The technology pieces aligning in Gulf County are beginning to resemble a cluster.
The Unmanned Safety Institute, which provides flight safety training and certification for unmanned aviation systems, or drones, announced this week it will establish the USI Center of Excellence at Gulf Coast State College’s Gulf/Franklin campus.
USI provides the state of Florida’s drone curriculum and will be teaching county public high school students beginning this coming school year.
“Ecstatic best describes our reaction to the news of this partnership and location of another aerospace technology type business in Gulf County,” said Jim McKnight, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition.
McKnight added the USI center is an enhancement to the work of Skyborne Technology, its U.S. operations based in Wewahitchka, and its partner Unmanned Systems which are establishing a drone program at Costin Airport in Port St. Joe.
“This all is going to make a technology cluster within a few miles of each other,” McKnight said.
According to a press release, much of the academic and commercial training at the USI Center of Excellence will be take place at the Gulf/Franklin campus, where the organization will have dedicated office, classroom and training space.
Establishing the center will allow the company to provide unmanned safety and education training programs locally, regionally and nationally.
The training focuses on safety best practices in the wide variety of drone applications, ranging from inspections of cell towers, power lines, wind turbines, agricultural uses and other scenario-based uses.
“Unmanned Safety Institute is excited to be taking this next step in the evolution of our company,” said Josh Olds, President of USI, “demonstrating our commitment to promote professional and standards-based training in the unmanned industry, increasing aviation skill sets and developing a highly-qualified and standardized workforce for Gulf County and the rest of the unmanned industry.”
Olds added that the partnership with GCSC will facilitate the expansion of the scale and reach of the company’s training which in turn will bolster the workforce production of professional drone pilots for all sizes and nature of aircraft.
“I am thrilled by the news of the expansion of services at our Gulf/Franklin Center,” said McKnight, who is also chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees.
“This partnership will provide training and certificates/licenses leading to high-paying jobs. It is a great day in Gulf County.”
In addition to establishing its Institute, USI has also entered into an agreement with Textron Unmanned Systems to create a career pathway for college and high school students, military personnel leaving the service and adult students.
Qualified students will be able to participate in training in accordance to Textron standards and the two companies will partner to support classroom and flight activity directly related to Textron’s unmanned aviation systems.
USI certifications are part of a three-tiered program of increasing levels of training and education.
Those certifications are what county high school students will pursue as part of USI’s drone program, which will be significantly funded via grant dollars from Triumph Gulf Coast.
Triumph provided a $750,000 grant for the program, with district adding in funds for instructor salaries and benefits.
According to a release, USI has over 150 instructors and over 8,000 customers around the world, including several Fortune 500 companies.
The release detailed that USI is the global leader in drone training and certification.